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Week 2: Rationale for Teaching Media Studies

Last fall while taking EDPA 5341, “The American Middle School,� I learned that the National Middle School Association teaches that an effective middle school embodies fourteen key characteristics, the first of which is “curriculum that is relevant, challenging, integrative, and exploratory� (This We Believe in Action, Orb 4). I believe that integrating media studies into our current middle school curriculum, particularly Communications and Language Arts, will make the curriculum much more relevant to their lives, due to the fact that our students are swimming in media - they spend an average of 6 ½ hours a day with it, according to the Kaiser Foundation.

We have 8th and 9th grades in our building currently and there is one media technology class offered. It is a one semester course that covers advertising, news analysis, film editing and basic web design. There are four additional media technology classes offered at the high school, and they are very popular, so in that respect, one could say that the community has a positive attitude toward media studies. However, the technology levy did not pass this fall, and it is difficult to schedule classes into the computer labs at times.

I teach Communications 8 and Literacy 8 at Farmington Middle School West. Communications 8 is required in our building and is closely linked to the 8th grade English department. We meet the 8th grade requirements for a research paper in our class as well as write and present several different types of speeches throughout the one-semester course, state standards for listening, writing, and speaking. The curriculum was designed by my mentor teacher and incorporates little media technology. The reason for this is twofold, I believe: the difficulty in scheduling computer lab time and her hesitancy to use new technology. We research in the computer lab for the information speech, and we videotape one speech for the purpose of students analyzing themselves. I would like to use more technology in the class in order to capitalize on our students’ interest in technology, making it relevant to their lives. One possibility would be to watch and analyze speeches made by people in a variety of occupations in order to establish the necessity for learning public speaking. Another would be to communicate with the 10th grade students currently enrolled in Public Speaking through the use of class blogs or wikis, as Beach discusses at length on page 14. This may help students understand how they are learning the basics of public speaking and how the class has helped others do simple presentations. Having a 10th grade Communications partner could also establish a stronger sense of community within the high school in the future.

In pitching my idea to the school board, I share with them the following:

School board, it is my desire as well as yours to see that we are training our students in the basics of reading and writing, and I would like to share with you why media technology should be incorporated into our Language Arts curriculum. Our students are immersed in media and spend hours every day listening to MP3 players, playing video games, watching television and using the internet for research and socialization. When our current middle school students graduate from college, they will be taking jobs in fields that do not exist today. It is our job to train them now for the future and the future will hold media technology wherever they go.
We strive to teach curriculum that is challenging, relevant, integrative and exploratory, and with current technology we can do that. When we have enough computer labs and carts for classrooms, students can view and analyze a wider variety of texts than one book. Students can write responses in chat rooms, blogs, and wikis, all methods useful for teaching proper writing and publication techniques in a manner relevant and interesting to our students. Our students are living in a global economy fueled by media and need to be able to analyze and interpret the messages relayed to them on a daily basis; for example, they need to understand how the media can portray different populations, and how they bias reporting. They need to learn technology skills that will be necessary in their future occupations. Even our MCA tests are taken online now, which furthers the idea that our society becomes more paperless every day.
Please consider the proposal set before you to increase funding for media studies in our classrooms. With the proper tools, we will be more able to capture our students’ attentions in what they already spending ¼ of their day using, according to the Kaiser Foundation: media technology.